Games: Lego Media

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Indy Lifestyle Online
The yo-yo has recently made a comeback. Action Man and Barbie are still bestsellers. So fears that the market for computer games would cause the death of simple, non-electronic, pastimes have been somewhat exaggerated - just as claims that TV or video would remove the public desire to go to the cinema have been out of step. History suggests that new formats will be embraced without extinguishing other forms of entertainment.

Millions of kids worldwide have played with Lego and, as it became more complex, with increasingly sophisticated bricks and figures available, so the audience grew. But with the company's avowed aim to become the best-known brand among families with children by the year 2005, the toy giant saw that bricks and theme parks just weren't enough. So, after one earlier and disastrous step into the video games market with Lego Island, the company has now launched a multitude of new titles.

Now you can play Lego Chess, build your own world with electronic bricks in Lego Creator, and, in Lego Loco, construct a train set on your computer screen.

The creating ethos at the heart of Lego is essential to these games, and, cannily, each title includes an exclusive limited-edition model to add to your traditional Lego collection.

Lego is even planning to dip its toe into the traditionally tough market of software for girls, with Lego Friends, a simple but enchanting game where you can take part in sleepovers with your friends and assemble a song and dance performance for your band, Tuff Stuff. A basic music editor lets you create the song and dance of your choice, perfectly harmonised across vocals and four instruments, even adding special lighting effects for the school hall concert. The title, to be launched this autumn, will appeal to girls aged six to 10 and - with nary an American accent in sight - their parents.

Before that, there are the joys of Lego Racers to look forward to, a cartoony driving game where you construct the driver and the car. Build the car too heavily at the back and you'll be doing wheelies round the track; make it more aerodynamic and it'll go faster.

Throughout the range, the commitment to the core concepts of building and creativity has given the games a coherence and accessibility. They also contain wit and an attention to detail which will make them winners. David Phelan

Lego Chess and Lego Loco pounds 19.99, Lego Creator pounds 24.99. For further information contact 0181-600 7200.